In the first of this series of articles, speculating on how Manchester United should line up next season, naturally, I started with the back four. You would not be surprised to see Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young appearing on either side of David De Gea but, in the hope, United will recruit in both areas, I opted for Monaco’s Djibril Sidibe and Juventus’ Alex Sandro. In the centre, I went for the recently exiled Eric Bailly to regain favour, alongside ideally Tottenham’s classy defender Toby Alderweireld. Cue Chris Smalling and Phil Jones getting the 76825th reprieve of their United careers.
Today, I will turn my attention to the engine room, an area which patently needs strengthening particularly with Michael Carrick sitting next to the boss and Marouane Fellaini eventually surely getting the boot. There is scope for Andreas Pereira cutting his ties with United for good too, after going against Mourinho’s advice to fight for his place last season.
Nemanja Matic classily slotted into the midfield last season, Ander Herrera showed glimpses of his big game status and Paul Pogba, should he stay, will be striving to find more consistency, somewhat of a must entering his third full season at the club considering the outlay. Scott McTominay may find his chances limited with acquisitions but he showed promise and a willingness to carry out Mourinho’s instructions to the letter- getting his player of the year vote in the process. A loan move may be best at this stage, but I would have no qualms to him retaining his squad player status.
Herrera is a big fans’ favourite but it feels United need more than the odd big game cameo from the Basque. As such, widespread rumours of an imminent deal for Shakthar Donetsk’s midfield enforcer, Fred should not come as a surprise. Imminent is a necessity, with his involvement in Brazil’s World Cup squad potentially dragging out a deal into United’s pre-season. He mixes physicality with typical Brazilian flair and creativity, earning previous links to Pep Guardiola and City. It is exciting to think that, at 25 years old, he can improve further at United.
This should not be confused for a Football Manager esque spending spree, more two midfielders will leave, therefore two midfielders should be bought. If Fred’s signing is welcomed, Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic would surely be celebrated. Parallels with Paul Pogba have been sounded out in terms of style and physical presence, only Matic’s international team-mate has notched double figures in goals. His agent, Mateja Kezman, is well known to Mourinho from his Chelsea days, which could simplify any deal. United could genuinely have a midfield with bite in all areas, something they have arguably lacked since the early noughties.
The acquisitions of Fred and/or Milinkovic-Savic will ease the burden and reliance on Nemanja Matic and release Paul Pogba to more damaging areas. Matic and Fred could rotate, with SMS and Pogba doing their thing in front.
Herrera and McTominay would be utilised in the so-called bigger games when United would require extra defensive security- in line with Mourinho’s tendency in those games- and they should be useful squad players next season.
Rowlesy’s United 2018-19 midfield: Fred/Matic, Milinkovic-Savic, Pogba.
Who would you like to see in United’s midfield next season? Let us know your line-up.